Neuschwanstein Castle stands in an idyllic mountain landscape in Hohenschwangau near Hopfen am See in the Allgäu. The castle of the former Bavarian King Ludwig II was completed in 1886 and is one of the most famous sights in Germany. Well over a million people visit this imposing magnificent building every year.
From the outside, Neuschwanstein Castle most closely resembles an impressive medieval castle. The rooms inside enchant with beautiful decorations, valuable art treasures, luxurious furnishings and an abundance of gold, velvet and glitter. Motifs from the world of legends and fairy tales are omnipresent on the walls and ceilings of the magnificent building. King Ludwig II had a very special enthusiasm for these. He was a great admirer and friend of the composer Richard Wagner, who repeatedly addressed the world of legends and fairy tales in his works. Every year, well over a million visitors from all over the world come to Neuschwanstein to marvel at the castle, which is considered a symbol of Romanticism. In 2007, Neuschwanstein was even in the final round of the election to the new wonders of the world. The dream castle belongs today to the Free State of Bavaria and can be visited daily guided. Since, at least during the main holiday season in summer, up to 10,000 people come to Neuschwanstein every day, you should plan enough time for a trip to the castle. Afterwards it is recommended to visit the neighboring castle Hohenschwangau as well. If you want to learn more about the castles or King Ludwig II, the Museum of the Bavarian Kings in Hohenschwangau is the right place to go.
The history of Neuschwanstein Castle
In the Middle Ages, the two small castles of Vorderhohenschwangau and Hinterhohenschwangau stood where the impressive castle is enthroned today. Noblemen of Schwangau had had their domicile here in former times. King Ludwig II spent large parts of his childhood and youth in the middle of the 19th century in Hohenschwangau Castle. This romantic residential castle was built by his father, Maximilian II, to serve as a summer residence for himself and his family. Since his wife, Queen Marie, liked the castle and the surrounding picturesque landscape of the Allgäu so much, the royal family ultimately stayed at Hohenschwangau for large parts of the year. Ludwig II liked to use his time for leisurely excursions into nature. During one of these he discovered the small castles, which had meanwhile deteriorated into ruins. A drawing from Ludwig's diary depicting Vorderhohenschwangau Castle dates from 1859. He probably already had a vision of building a magnificent castle in place of the castle ruins.
After the death of his father Maximilian II, Ludwig II became King of Bavaria in 1864 at the tender age of 18. In the years that followed, he undertook two journeys that greatly inspired him as far as the construction of Neuschwanstein Castle was concerned. One was a visit to Wartburg Castle near Eisenach and the other was a trip to Pierrefonds Castle in France. In his opinion, both buildings reflected the romanticism of the Middle Ages very well. In May 1868, he informed his friend Richard Wagner in a letter that he intended to have a castle built in the style of a medieval castle in place of the two castle ruins. When his grandfather Ludwig I died in the same year, Ludwig inherited considerable financial sums that enabled him to realize this project. With the castle, he wanted to create his private refuge and his personal fairytale world. For the realization of the building project, he commissioned the theater painter Christian Jank, who was to create the designs, and the architect Eduard Riedel.
Construction of the castle began in 1869. Originally, it was to be completed just three years later. However, Ludwig II repeatedly had the planned designs changed in favor of new and larger ideas. For example, instead of the huge throne room, only a small study had originally been planned. As a result, completion was very much delayed. It was not until 1884 that large parts of the castle were habitable, so that Ludwig lived at Neuschwanstein from then on for a total of 172 days until his death in 1886. Since the king also started various other costly castle projects after construction of Neuschwanstein had begun, he was heavily in debt before his death. When he demanded a guarantee from his ministry for another loan, the ministry had him declared incompetent and deposed as king. A government commission came to Neuschwanstein in June 1886 to take Ludwig II into custody. On June 13, 1886, the fairy-tale king died in Lake Starnberg under circumstances that remain unexplained to this day. Actually, he never wanted to open Neuschwanstein Castle to the public, but the king's estate opened it to visitors just a few weeks after his death in order to pay his debts with the entrance fees. The magnificent building survived the two world wars in the following century without damage. Today, Neuschwanstein Castle is a world-famous attraction. Even the Disney studios took it as a model for their famous Sleeping Beauty Castle.
Most important rooms
The castle is made up of several individual structures that stretch over the top of a rocky ridge for a length of about 150 meters. Most conspicuous on the courtyard level is the 45-meter-high square tower, which provides magnificent views of the Allgäu Königswinkel region from its surrounding viewing platform. The actual main and residential building is the Palas on the western side of the courtyard. Here, in this mighty five-story building, are all of the king's magnificent rooms, most of which are among the most important of German Historicism. The largest and most imposing rooms at Neuschwanstein are the Throne Hall and the Singers' Hall. The Singers' Hall, which measures 27 by 10, was built on the model of the Singers' Hall and Festival Hall at Wartburg Castle. It is splendidly furnished, ornate paintings adorn the walls and huge golden chandeliers hang from the ceiling. The impressive gallery and the singers' arbor, a stage divided by ornate arcades, catch the eye here first. Every year in September, palace concerts with stars of classical music take place within this royal ambience.
No less impressive is the throne room, modeled on the All Saints' Court Church in the Munich Residence. An oversized chandelier representing the Byzantine crown hangs from the ceiling, the floor is decorated with a huge mosaic and colorful arcades, lots of gold and elaborate murals complete the royal atmosphere of the room. All other rooms in the castle are also luxuriously furnished and highly ornate, with a lot of attention to detail. The castle combines mainly Romanesque, Gothic and Byzantine art forms. Also noteworthy is the technology used, which was ahead of its time. For example, the castle already had telephone systems and toilets with automatic flushing.
All in all, Neuschwanstein Castle is a monument of incomparable beauty that must be seen. Tickets for a tour are available on site, or on the Internet, at the Ticketcenter Hohenschwangau.